So You Want To Be A Travel Nurse: Five Things To Know Before You Take Off
1. P L A N A C C O R D I N G L Y
Before travel nursing can become a reality, you will need roughly two years of solid nursing experience under your belt. Hospitals are looking for nurses who can walk onto a unit, orient for two days, and then get straight to work. This takes confidence and a basic foundation of knowledge about your specialty, and two years usually gives you this. So, if you know that travel nursing is a goal of yours start the process of building your confidence and knowledge base early. Ask plenty of questions, volunteer to take the sickest patients on your unit, and float to other units whenever you can. Many people loathe floating, but floating allows you to have a mock travel experience right in your own hospital. Patients are still going to look to you to take the best care of them whether you are in your comfort zone or not, so begin the process now.
2. S T A C K Y O U R C O I N S
In other words SAVE! Moving from state to state is expensive, and although some relocation expenses can be covered, in reality all relocation expenses usually aren't. Less is actually more when you travel, so everything that you have acquired in the previous years as a staff nurse either will stay at your permanent residence/tax home, a storage unit, or the garage of a really nice friend or family member. Whether you're paying the mortgage/rent of a home or you're paying the monthly fees of a storage unit to house your belongings it will certainly add up. Save monies for different types of miscellaneous fees, including hotels you may have to stay in going to and from your assignment, plane tickets, gas, etc. My first travel assignment actually had a toll on the way to and from the hospital that I knew nothing about when accepting my assignment and negotiating my contract. It's a good idea to save and put aside monies for these type of expeneses that just happen to pop up and make themselves nice and comfortable in your life.
3. K E E P I N T O U C H
Never burn bridges! Everything in life is fueled by a recommendation. Before quitting your job and skipping out of work with the intentions of never speaking to anyone again truly consider anyone who has impacted you and can vouch for your work ethic as a great nurse. Most hospitals and travel agencies want a recommendation from a manager or charge nurse. So even as your last days approach continue to work just as hard and diligently as you did on your first day of work. As tempting as it is to call out and simply cut all ties after solidifying your first travel assignment, you just don't want to burn bridges.
4. D A T E A R O U N D
As much as we like to believe that health professions are all about the well-being of the patient and the people taking care of them, you must first remember that it is a business. Therefore, treat yourself like a business as well. When it comes to travel agencies, explore all options. Certain companies have more opportunities in certain cities than other companies. However, you will never know this if you are only speaking with one company at a time. Before accepting my first travel assignment I spoke with three different travel agencies who all offered me three different opportunities that the others agencies could not offer. I chose the one best for me. It is great to have options, so explore them!
5. P A S S M E T H E R E M O T E
You are finally in control, so get a calendar and plan! I was a habitual planner long before travel nursing came into the picture, but now planning has become even more fun. My calendar is highlighted with trips and holidays that I refuse to work and I plan my travel assignments around these. If I am planning to take a trip greater than a week, then I want to make sure this is in between assignments so that I am not taking more than a week off during an assignment. Taking time off during an assignment means no money is coming in for that time because PTO is no longer a reality in travel nursing. The objective is to put in work for 13 weeks and then bask in the fruits of your labor before heading to your next assignment and repeating the cycle. Being in a profession such as nursing helped me realize missing birthdays, holidays, and family vacations was no longer an option for me. I wanted to enjoy my family while they were here and in good health. If you save accordingly, you can possibly afford to take ample time away from work in order to spend time with loved ones between assignments. But, regardless of what you choose to do you're ultimately in control.
Feel free to comment below. Let me know about your travel nurse experience or other topics you would like insight on about the nursing field.